In this series entitled Making Melbourne Move I look at some of the transport issues facing Melbourne today, as well as possible solutions to get the city moving again.
Melbourne has grown immensely in the past 10 years and that growth has put a lot of pressure on the city’s infrastructure.
The issues and solutions considered are based on my observations, as well as experience of living in various cities around the world. First up - yellow box junctions.
What is a Yellow Box Junction?
A box junction is the area where 2 roads intersect - commonly known as an intersection in Australia and the US.
In Europe, but less commonly in Australia, a hatched yellow box is painted across busy intersections, including level crossings, to visually signify the area where a driver may not stop while crossing the intersection. The exception to this, at least in the UK and Ireland, is that a driver turning right may enter the yellow box junction to wait for oncoming traffic to clear before making a right turn.
Routemaster buses crossing a yellow box junction on King William Street, London (1969) Ken Ripper (Creative Commons Attribution Share-alike license 2.0)
Box junctions were introduced in the late 1960s in London to ease congestion caused by traffic blocking the intersection. They were widely rolled out, together with a public service broadcast information campaign in the 1970s and 1980s and continue to be used as a highly visual indicator to drivers that they are not allowed to stop on the intersection.
The Victorian legislation regarding the use of intersections is very clear, being set out in Regulation 128 of the Road Safety Road Rules:
A driver must not enter an intersection if the driver cannot drive through the intersection because the intersection, or a road beyond the intersection, is blocked.
Penalty: 3 penalty units.
This legislation would appear unknown to many drivers in Melbourne’s CBD, given the number of drivers who frequently block intersections in the CBD. This, despite the heavy penalty for doing so.
It is a legislation that is rarely, if ever, enforced. The legislation is, however, compatible with the rules governing yellow box junctions.
The Case for use in Melbourne
With intersections increasingly blocked by vehicles attempting to get across before the lights change, a visual reminder that the intersection must be kept clear would go a long way.
Yellow box junctions at major intersections in the CBD, together with a public awareness campaign to inform motorists of their purpose and the penalty for not adhering to the rules, would be a relatively cheap and effective means of helping the traffic to flow freely in the city.
Effective enforcement of the road rules is a key element in ensuring that the yellow box junctions are kept clear. A pilot study undertaken by Transport for London showed that traffic flow increased in 73% of sites where there was effective enforecement. While I am not necessarily advocating for enforcement cameras at junctions, an occasional police presence at junctions may be enough to deter drivers who might otherwise ignore the road rules.